I have just finished reading Ken Follet's World Without End. Do you remember his earlier novel Pillars of the Earth? This is a sequel to that book, picking up a few generations after Tom Builder built the Knightsbridge Cathedral. Like the first book, it is set in Medieval times, now sometimes referred to as the Dark Ages, when the church was in high command and the Pope was more powerful than the King of England.
It is a great read and if, like me, you like period stories, it is a must-read! Besides, I have always liked Follet's writing style; although this book is over a 1000 pages, it is a real page turner and I read it in all of two days. I just couldn't put it down. It actually helped me overcome my jet lag! Scout's honor! I was so engrossed in the characters that I did not even notice the clock strike one in the morning and when I did put it down, I fell into a deep slumber and woke up refreshed at an earthly 9 am rather than the ungodly 5 am I was dreading! :)
So, in answer to your question about what I am upto these days in my home country, it is just that - reading, relaxing and enjoying home food! One of the first things I did since I landed here was to go to the lending library, renew my dormant membership, and borrow a pile of novels and comics to pass time...
I love the libraries here. There is absolutely no luxury in there; no air conditioning even during the sweltering summer, no chairs to sit and peruse book; it is just functional; yet, there is a sense of comfort! They are small but have been around forever, definitely since my mom was ye high. Despite my intermittent presence over the last few years, the guy, who runs it, still remembers my face (and all the fines I run up for late returns!)..
So, I came home arms filled with books and I was happy. We have a gorgeous garden here that is delight, especially, in the evenings. Sitting in a comfortable chair out in the garden, with a book in hand and cup of hot ginger tea and I really can't ask for more.... Oh! except perhaps a piece of the Pumpkin Harvest Bar I had made back in New York! :)
Harvest Pumpkin Bars with Dulce de Leche Cream Cheese Frosting
(adapted from Better Homes & Gardens)
makes 9 to 16 bars)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cups brown sugar
1 cup fresh pumpkin puree
1/2 cup cooking oil
2 eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup toasted chopped almonds or other nuts
1/4 cup raisins
more whole almonds for garnish
Dulce de Leche cream cheese frosting (Recipe below)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. In another bowl, beat together sugar, pumpkin, eggs, and oil. Add the flour mixture to it in three parts, beating each time to incorporate well. Fold in the chopped nuts and raisins.
Pour the batter into an ungreased 8x8 inch baking pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cake is springy to touch.
Cool in pan on a wire rack. Once the cake is completely cool, generously spread the cream cheese frosting in an even layer. Cut the cake into bar sized pieces. Garnish each bar with a whole or chopped nuts.
Dulce de Leche Cream Cheese Frosting
2 oz cream cheese at room temperature (Can use low fat)
2 T butter, softened
4 T Dulce de Leche
1/4 cup powdered sugar
Cream together the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add Dulce de Leche and beat to mix completely. Continue beating and gradually add powdered sugar until the mixture is smooth.